September 23, 2014

Sling Media moves to Facebook with new App

The company continues to reach out to new platforms

Sling Media, a provider of streaming media, has once again expanded its reach by developing a Facebook app that has the potential to reach millions of additional potential customers as well as make its make its technology more easily used.

The program is called SlingPlayer for Facebook and the obvious target is its installed customer base. To use the app you need both a Facebook account and more importantly a Slingbox. It provides you with an on screen remote control that enables you to watch and record programs remotely from your home system.

SlingPlayer for Facebook does not require additional hardware, passwords or software. A user that already has an account with the company can now use existing passwords etc to access their DVR or live television. It supports a wide variety of browsers including Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and works on both PCs and Macs. However only customers with its Pro-HD or Solo devices will be able to use the app.

The app will also enable the company to possibly get into businesses and other sites via a potential backdoor by using Facebook. A company may close many different sites to keep employees focused on work but Facebook tends to be exempt.

I expect that it will provide a secondary boost to the company as customers will likely show friends at work the technology and say on a Thursday night where you have to work late it can show a football game that you might otherwise miss.

Sling Media has been aggressive in moving its technology onto additional platforms. It is also available on Android phones and tablets, iPads, iPod Touch, iPhones Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerrys. In addition it has a Windows app and a Mac OS X app.

The company needs to stay aggressive due to the current competition from players such as Apple TV, Roku, and Boxee as well as a number of similar approaches including Xbox 360 and streaming sites like Netflix that seek to erode Sling Media’s original core space.

Verizon: MNF a ‘Big Draw’ for NFL Mobile App

The ability to watch Monday Night Football on your phone — like tonight’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Bears — has drawn a lot of new fans to Verizon Wireless’s NFL Mobile app, according to a company executive in charge of the service.

“The NFL Mobile app is very popular, and we continue to see growth [in user numbers],” said Mitch Dornich, Verizon Wireless marketing director for entertainment and sponsorships, in a phone interview. Though Dornich would not disclose updated subscriber numbers, last year Verizon reportedly had at least 4.5 million of its wireless customers using the NFL Mobile app — a number that has almost certainly grown thanks to the addition of live Monday Night Football games to the app’s premium-service tier this season.

“Last year, we had Thursday night games, Sunday night games, the NFL Network shows and the RedZone,” said Dornich. “This year we added Monday Night Football and it’s been a big lift. RedZone as a companion device during other broadcasts and Monday Night Football seem to be our biggest draws.”

Audio Broadcasts Also Popular

Though Verizon’s promotions of the NFL Mobile app center around live video and the company’s new, fast 4G LTE network, it is good old audio broadcasts that account for another big chunk of NFL Mobile use.

“Audio consumption is very high, probably because it’s the perfect companion if you’re doing something like driving, where you can’t watch the screen,” Dornich said. With both home and away audio broadcast choices NFL Mobile can satisfy fans of either side of any NFL contest, and couples the live audio with instantly updated text play-by-play.

According to Dornich, many Verizon wireless customers may start out with the basic free version of the NFL Mobile app, which supports features like the audio broadcasts and play-by-play, and then upgrade to the premium version after getting a taste of the video choices available. Verizon added some video-on-demand features, like in-game highlights, to the basic package this season and Dornich guessed the appetizer has enticed many fans to upgrade for the full meal deal.

For Verizon customers with 3G phones that support video (like the iPhone 4 or the iPhone 4s) the premium NFL Mobile package requires a $10 per month “Verizon Video” fee in addition to any other data plan.

“This year we put the VOD [video on demand] into the basic package so people could see the value,” Dornich said. Verizon is also waiving the $10 monthly fee for the rest of the 2011-12 season for customers who purchase 4G LTE phones. In and of itself, the NFL Mobile app is a bit of a promotional tool for the 4G LTE network, Dornich said.

“It’s really good for us, because [the NFL Mobile app] helps us differentiate our network from the competition,” Dornich said. “It shows customers what the network is capable of.”

Technical Challenges: Getting Good Video to Handsets

One of the biggest challenges for Verizon is optimizing the video streams to the many different handsets that are supported, which include Android smartphones as well as a long list of BlackBerry devices. “It’s not just about delivering the highest bit rate, since you may deliver something that a handset processor could choke on,” Dornich said. “The challenge for us is how to optimize the stream, so it’s right-sized for a particular handset.”

Though the NFL Mobile app is not yet supported on what is fast becoming the couch potato’s favorite companion device — the Apple iPad and its tablet imitators — Dornich said to “stay tuned” for news about iPad and NFL Mobile.

Verizon also takes care to alert potential NFL Mobile heavy users that watching a lot of video on your phone may be hazardous to the health of your monthly data plan. “We are always pretty clear up front that high usage [of NFL Mobile video] may impact your data plan,” Dornich said. One way fans can keep data consumption under control is to seek out Wi-Fi hotspots when they know they are going to watch a lot of video, Dornich said.

Verizon Wireless, which also has mobile apps for fans of the National Hockey League and IndyCar auto racing, said it is happy with the results of its $720 million deal with the NFL, which gives Verizon exclusive rights to cellphone viewing (though fans with other paid packages, like DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket or the Slingbox can also watch their services via a mobile connection).

“We’re very happy with the agreement,” Dornich said. “Our expectations have been validated.”

Sling Media provides enhanced remote viewing for fans

Sling Media delivers SlingPlayer for Tablets
Paying a bundle to get a sports bundle on your home entertainment unit and not willing to double dip to get it on a mobile device as well? Then maybe Sling Media may have the solution for you in its SlingPlayer platform.

SlingMedia has taken the next step in delivering streaming media to mobile users with the latest release of its $29.99 SlingPlayer platform. The SlingPlayer for tablets is designed to support tablets that run the Android operating system 3.0 or later and enable a user to basically watch home TV while on the go and is an enhancement on its previous offering for Android-based phones.

This is great news for sports fans that are seeking a method to gain access to the packages that they may already be paying for at home while on the road, and is a major step up for Sling Media’s offerings in this space.

There is more to the deal than simply paying $29.99 for the app and suddenly getting all of your home sports and other programming on your Android-based tablet. You must first pony up for a Slingbox device, which start at $180 and go up from there.

The program gives users control as if they were at home, with features that include being able to set a DVR at home, channel surf and browse content while still watching TV anywhere a user has an Internet connection.

The existing SlingPlayer application for Android Phones will continue to work on tablets in “Compatibility Mode” on tablets at no extra charge but it provides video at a much lower resolution than the tablet specific platform.

There is also available a SlingPlayer Mobile offering for Apple’s iPhone and iPads that also provide remote control over home TV and DVR and is available for $29.99